A YA Double Dip: Lurking Monsters and Hidden Treasures

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You might want to select a snack that can be eaten on the run for today’s Double Dip review, because one of these books might have you dashing for safety.  Or perhaps you’d like to choose a snack that reminds you of home; some comfort food to ease you into the mood for today’s second YA offering.   We received both of these titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley.

First up we have Nightfall by Jake Halpern and and Peter Kujawinski.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

On Marin’s island, sunrise doesn’t come every twenty-four hours—it comes every twenty-eight years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold and the shadows are growing long.

Because sunset triggers the tide to roll out hundreds of miles, the islanders are frantically preparing to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night.

Marin and her twin brother, Kana, help their anxious parents ready the house for departure. Locks must be taken off doors. Furniture must be arranged. Tables must be set. The rituals are puzzling—bizarre, even—but none of the adults in town will discuss why it has to be done this way.

Just as the ships are about to sail, a teenage boy goes missing—the twins’ friend Line. Marin and Kana are the only ones who know the truth about where Line’s gone, and the only way to rescue him is by doing it themselves. But Night is falling. Their island is changing.

And it may already be too late.

Dip into it for…  nightfall

…a broody, moody atmosphere that invites the reader to satiate their curiosity over what happens during Night on the island of Bliss.  There are a lot of questions raised during the early parts of the book – why do the villagers have to rush to leave the island? What’s so important about leaving the houses “without stain”?  What is this year’s worth of isolation for Marin all about? – and not all of these are fully answered by the end.  I didn’t feel bereft by the fact that some of the questions I had were left hanging, and I’m not sure if this is a standalone or a series opener, but the ambiguous ending worked effectively here either way.  I really felt drawn in by the writing in the first half of the book as I struggled, along with the protagonists Marin, Kana and Line, to make sense of the tension and odd ritual behaviour of the islanders before the fall of Night.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re expecting a full on horror experience.  This definitely wasn’t scary in the traditional sense, but there are a few twists that I didn’t see coming.  I actually felt slightly less interested in the book once the secret of the Night was revealed, but for three quarters of the story I was deeply engaged.

Also, there is at least one gaping plot-hole that is never addressed, namely, why on earth would this group of people live on an island that they have to move away from every fourteen years, when there are clearly other places they could live?  I found this issue a niggling annoyance throughout the book, particularly when the frenzy of leaving is going on.

Overall Dip Factor

For the first three-quarters of this story, I would allocate 4 stars.  For the remaining quarter, 2.5 stars.  So overall, I did enjoy this book greatly, but my level of excitement and curiosity dipped considerably before the end.  The set up to the story was fantastic in that it really does make you want to find out what is behind the odd behaviour of the islanders, and as Night rolls in and the tide rolls out, the author has included some super cool twists that will ignite the imagination.  All in all, this was an unusual story and an engaging read for the most part.

Next up we have historical fiction novel The Search for the Homestead Treasure: A Mystery by Ann Treacy.  Here’s the blurb fom Goodreads:

Aunt Ida would boil him in the laundry cauldron if she knew where he was. On the long wagon ride to the old homestead, she warned them about the Gypsies they’d encountered, and now here he was, ducking into a colorful caravan with Samson, a Gypsy boy he had met . . . underwater. And it was the best thing to happen since they’d moved from Stillwater to this lonely, hard place to try to reclaim the decrepit family farm.

Missing his friends and life as it was before his brother’s accident and his mother’s silent grief, fourteen-year-old Martin Gunnarsson is trying to hold his family together on the homestead where his ancestors died of diphtheria in 1865. The only one who had survived was his father, a baby found in the arms of his older sister Cora. But somehow rumors of a treasure on the farm survived, too, and when Martin discovers Aunt Cora’s journal in a musty trunk in the hayloft, he thinks it might give him a clue. But what exactly is he looking for?

Reading Cora’s diary in secret, and just as stealthily becoming fast friends with Samson and his Roma family, Martin slowly begins to see his new surroundings, and himself, a little differently. But only when he recognizes that his small sister, for so long a mere pest, holds the true key does Martin start to understand where the real treasure might be found.

Dip into it for…  cover4

…an engaging family drama and historical fiction piece featuring friendship, hardship and one boy trying to connect to his past in order to secure his future.  The book opens at the close, so to speak, as we are privy to the final chapter of the life of Martin’s aunt Cora, and the events that lead to Martin’s father being raised by another family.  Soon enough we are introduced to Samson, a traveller boy and the first friend Martin makes in his ancestral home.  The story revolves around Martin’s efforts to save the family farm from foreclosure on behalf of his father, who has met with an accident.  The book flicks between Martin’s actions in the present and the nuggets of information that Martin can glean from Cora’s diary, which may offer the key to solving Martin’s problems.

Don’t dip if…

…you are hoping that the titular mystery and homestead treasure are going to play a big part in the story.   Rather than chasing after the elusive family treasure that may or may not be hidden on the farm, Martin devotes most of his time to doing more sensible things to save the farm, like engaging in hard work and asking for help from his new friends.  I couldn’t help but feel that this book was deliberately misleading in the title, to make it sound a bit more adventurous than it actually turned out to be.  This doesn’t mean it was a bad book, just not what I was expecting from the title.

Overall Dip Factor

I found this to be an engaging and interesting historical story featuring strong themes of friendship, the benefits of effort, loyalty and teamwork and the links between families that run through generations.  If you ignore the homestead treasure part, this is still a solid story that stands on its own merits, with characters that are well developed and a storyline that will appeal to young readers interested in tales of history and friendship.  Overall, while not exactly what I expected, I still found this to be a worthwhile read.

I will leave you at that, replete, as you are, with a repast of absorbing stories to digest.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

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